As Winter Olympics ratings plunge, Black women figure skate

by Ezekiel J. Walker
starr andrews winter olympics
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The Winter Olympics are very White. From the snow, to the uniforms, its sponsorships and participants. But how the Olympics looks and feels may be about to shift.

When she was nine years old, Starr Andrews ice skated to “Whip My Hair,” and today that video has over 57 million views on YouTube. Those views were seen by Black girls who Andrews, a 2017 USA Junior Silver Medalist, has never forgotten.

Her summer ’21 performance of “Black Like Me” represents Starr and so many before her. Women like Mabel Fairbanks, who were once barred from skating solely because of their skin, yet would go on to become the first African American in the Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

Black creativity, whether embraced or not, has always been exceptional and with the way these Winter Olympics games are going, they could use a boost.

Through the first four nights of competition, NBC is on track for the lowest-rated Winter Games in history. Friday night’s coverage on NBC, USA Network and Peacock averaged 12.8 million viewers, significantly down from the 27.8 million average in PyeongChang four years ago.

Winter Olympics could use some Blackening

While its true that the Summer Olympics routinely features more events and higher ratings, a lack of star power has also contributed to the declining viewership.

Viewers tune in for the name – not the game. The Olympics showed the world just how high Simone Biles could soar, much like Dominique Dawes before her. The athleticism possessed by Black people – it just hits different.

And if Angela Blocker-Loyd and Candice Tamakloe, skating directors of Dream Detroit Skating Academy (DDSA), have their way, the icy landscape of Olympic figure skating may change forever.

They run Detroit’s only Black-owned female skating club and the state of Michigan’s only Black-owned figure skating club. The academy, which offers a high-quality and rigorous figure skating program, provides a variety of beginner and advanced classes, per the Detroit Free Press.

Black Girls Rock – And Skate.

The program provides affordable and accessible lessons to low-income youths. Classes consist of group and private figure skating lessons for youth ages four and up.

According to Black Enterprise, Blocker-Loyd’s figure skating journey began at nine years old, while being the youngest skater and among the few Black skaters at the Berkley Ice Arena and Recreation Center. Tamakloe took her under her guidance, and the rest is history. Among the few competitive Black skaters in the metropolitan Detroit area, the pair were moved to fill a need in the community—lack of representation.

“There has never been a skater at the national or international level to come out of the city of Detroit,” says Tamakloe. “We want to bring that quality back into the city.”

DDSA is preparing to produce the next big thing in the figure skating, and with Black women assuming the highest positions in the land, the Olympics may soon feature diversity as colorful as its rings.

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American Erin Jackson 1st Black woman to win speedskating gold February 13, 2022 - 12:05 pm

[…] she wants others to follow their path into a sport that draws scant attention in the United […]

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